The Fan Hitch Volume 4, Number 2, February 2002

Official Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog International

Table of Contents

Editorial
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Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Ove Nygaard
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An Amazing Lead Dog: The Story of Tatra
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A Mystic Reunion
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Katan, the Greenland Pup
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Oregon Dune Musher's Mail Run
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High Arctic Mushing: Part II
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Bibliography: Inuit Sled Dog Research
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Video Review: Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner
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Book Review: To a Lonely Land I Know
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IMHO: Visibility


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Editor-in-Chief: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
Print Edition: Imaged and distributed by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.

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The Inuit Sled Dog International

The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the preservation of this ancient arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog. The ISDI's efforts are concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to its native habitat. The ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and questions.

ISDI Coordinator Canada:
Geneviève Montcombroux, Box 206, Inwood, MB R0C 1P0; gmontcombroux@gmail.com
ISDI Coordinator USA:
Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791, mail@thefanhitch.org

There are hundreds of miles of trails with small road crossings here, good for 
training left and right. There are also many small rivers for watering dogs.  In 
winter these roads are not plowed - a nice place for mushers.   Nygaard photo

Featured Inuit Dog Owner:

Ove Nygaard - Roa, Norway

F.H.  How long have you been involved with sled dogs?
O.N. Approximately 30 years.

F.H. Did you start out with ISDs?  If not, how long have you owned ISDs?
O.N. I've had dogs all of my life, and was born in a home with hunting dogs (Harehounds and Elkhounds), but the last 30 years it's been Greenland Dogs.

F.H. What attracted you to ISDs? 
O.N. Their rough way of handling cold weather, and their ability to work in all conditions whatever the weather is like, and to give me the right companionship outdoors all the time.

F.H. Where did you get your ISDs?
O.N. A local owner/breeder.

F.H. How many dogs do you have?
O.N. I've got four dogs now, two males and two females.

F.H.  What kind of activities do you do with your ISDs?
O.N. First of all sledding in the winter and carting through the spring/summer/autumn for regular conditioning and touring, counting more hours and days we've been out than seconds and how many kilometers we've got behind us. If the dogs work well, that's what I look for. I also bring my dogs along when I'm tenting and fishing and for walks in the mountains and in the forest.

F.H. What kind of harnesses, carting/sledding equipment do you use?
O.N. I use a cross-back harness from Bernd Weshle in Germany. I also use an Opsal Treindustrier sled (manufactured by Thorleif Nordengen in Norway), but I've ordered a new one from BeWe (Alpi 2), and I use a cart from Fritz Dyck (the TOM-model) for training during the summer and autumn. You can see these sleds and carts at <www.bewe-sleds.de>

F.H. How do you kennel your dogs?
O.N. I've got one big yard with 2.5 meter high fence around it. Each dog is picketed on a five meter chain next to a house (warm and dry) but they can all reach each other to touch noses.  Every day they're all allowed to run free two or three times and how long depends of how much time we've been sledding/carting.

F.H. What do you feed your dogs?
O.N. I feed them approximately 60% raw meat (from www.provit.no) and 40% dry food (Genesis Performance from Gary Harrison at www.harrisonpet.com in Canada). I add minerals and vitamins, and during the winter I also add salmon oil for more energy into the feeding program.

F.H. Do you breed ISDs?
O.N. Hmmm,...... yes I think I might say yes to that, but not regularly; one or two litters a year, but only when I need new dogs for myself and a friend. My last litter was in 1999, and may be I'll have one this year - or the next.

 
Ove and his team, Tatra in lead, atop a mountain on the last downhill 
section of a race. Ahead a team of two men and six Siberian Huskies 
lost contol, rolled over and over, ending in a big snow pile, ears and 
legs sticking out here and there.  As Ove went by, the drivers yelled, 
"When  you  reach the finish line,  tell them  we'll go  directly home 
from here."                                                             Nygaard photo

F.H. What is your interpretation of an Inuit Sled Dog?
O.N. Their honesty;  they require nothing but food and water; a close connection to the owner/musher when taken good care of, and the way they seem to go with the nature all the time. By that I mean their ability to deal with all the conditions we meet when we're sledding, such as cold weather, wind, deep or blowing snow, poor visibility, finding their way, etc. etc.

F.H. Where did the original ISDs in Norway come from?  Are any dogs brought into the Norwegian gene pool from Greenland or Canada?
O.N. They came from Greenland and Canada. Many of the early expeditions in the Arctic areas - as well as in the Antarctic - brought dogs back to Norway. We got several dogs from the Sir Vivian Fuchs Antarctic expedition of 1957/58.  Also, many dogs were imported by private persons who had interest in the  breed. From 1947 to 1963 an organization for mushers, the Norsk Trekkhunklubb, imported thirty-six Inuit Dogs from Greenland and areas around, and in 1959 twelve dogs were imported from Hudson Bay in Canada where they had been used in an English-made movie. Recently some dogs have been brought to Norway from Greenland. However these are small, thin and looking more like a mix-breed-husky.  They have hip problems as well.

F.H. In terms of phenotype, health, temperament and performance, what is your view of the ISD in Norway, from long ago up until today?
O.N. There have been no big problems with their health. Inbreeding has resulted in some problems with the hips in some lines/kennels, and there have also been a few dogs who have had hypothyroid problems. Temperament has been good. This has been "The most healthy breed" in Norway - so far. However, inbreeding as well as cross breeding, AND SPECIALLY THOSE THINGS TOGETHER IN THE SAME PROGRAM, have been a disaster for the breed. We're getting all kind of problems today, and it's no doubt that we also  got the Merle-gene into the breed on those lines. That's why I'm staying away from those breeders and their dogs/lines for my own breeding program. Breeds such as Border Collie, Welsh Corgi, Dalmation, Dunker (harehound) carry the Merle-gene, and that can bring irregular spots to the coat and also blue eyes. We don't know what causes blue eyes in the Siberian Husky, but there might be a connection, or the Merle-gene may have been brought into the breed in other ways. But I believe that blue-eyed Greenland Dogs are happening because of mix breeding with other sled dogs. Merle-gene can have effect on both coat and eyes. If you do have a dog with a sable coat-color, the Merle-gene is not phenotypically expressed in that color although the dog may carry the gene as - Mm. But if you breed that dog with another Mm dog,  you'll get almost white pups. The same is with spotted coats (mostly small spots) - dark against a lighter background, and the Mm dogs can also have blue or blue spotted eyes. Dogs with Mm or mm do not have more sickness than other dogs, but if we come to MM it's different. Those dogs become all white, often blind and deaf, and they're sterile. It's advised not to breed two dogs with merle-gene, but if that's what is the reason of the blue eyes in Norway, I can tell you that they officially inbreed with this defect. 


Ove's dogs on a 30 km's tour in November in the forest 60 km 
north of Oslo, Norway                                        Nygaard photo

F.H. What do you think is the future of the ISD in Norway? 
O.N. The future of the purebred ISD in Norway is not good. I'm afraid of the results other breeders are getting with their dogs who are not pure, coming up with different kinds of defects and less healthy dogs. In the rest of the world? Europe has got some of the same problems, and that is very much because of one breeder in Norway who has been selling dogs from that breeder's own lines/kennel all over with no honesty for the breed, but for only one purpose - earning money. Besides that, we can see that the smaller and faster dogs are becoming more common and "accepted"  and as their numbers grow, the average person and the owners of these dogs believe that they should be looking that way. The official breed clubs,  as well as the Kennel Clubs,  are making no effort whatsoever to keep the breed as in origin, instead allowing  breeders to transform the ISD into something else. Even worse, because some, including me, have been so outspoken and have asked the NKC and the Danish Kennel Club (DKC) to take a stand against these unhealthy breed changes, the Norsk Polarhundklubb (NP) has removed these people from their official positions with the breeding program, appointing in their place breeders who accept breedstock with blue eyes as "normal" and who find it not unusual to see even in the pure dogs in Greenland!  The NKC and the DKC challenge neither the changes in the breed nor the removal of those who oppose these changes from their official capacity. NP has rebuked them for bringing these issues out into the open instead of recognizing their right to oppose these changes because they - as I do - want to keep the breed pure and in its original form. Not only do these clubs not want to read the message, they have made the conscious decision to kill the messengers. And so our best way to keep the Inuit Sled Dog for the future is with a strong organization- Inuit Sled Dog International.

F.H. What would  you like to say to ISD breeders/owners elsewhere in the world?
O.N. Be true to the breed and its history. A dog already perfected for its purpose over centuries of arctic conditions, there is no need for us to try to “reinvent” the breed. We must preserve its heritage for the future - the ISD's original way of living and nature.  Be honest when it comes to selling puppies. Tell those who want to buy one, "If you need or want a fast, light dog who that might be used for racing, go buy an Alaskan Husky if you like to win, or a Siberian Husky if you like to come in as number three. These are the breeds for you if the weather conditions are still changing to warmer for the future. But if you need a dog who is always beside you in the worst of weather conditions and will be sure to reach the point on the map you've been aiming at, and the times you spend outdoor together with the dogs is more important than getting back to the house for a cup of tea in the shortest possible time,  then there is only one breed in the world -THE INUIT SLED DOG, by whichever name you call them, Canadian or Greenland Inuit Dog."  If they don't listen to this, don't sell any puppy to them!

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